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News Briefs 2.19.03 

Garth eyes new home

Staying true to his promise to keep his dance company stationed in downtown Rochester, Garth Fagan is considering the northwest corner of Main and Gibbs streets as a site worth developing for the company's new dance studio and performance space. Commonly referred to as the old Rascal site, the northwest corner of Main and Gibbs is currently a surface parking lot.

            Garth Fagan Dance is the recent recipient of a combined $370,000 in state and federal funds, all of which will be directed to development costs for a new studio. Shortly after receiving the public money, Garth Fagan promised to keep his company downtown.

            Rachel DeGuzman, director of development for GFD, will only say that the company "is always exploring the possibility of finding a permanent home."

            But during a February meeting of the Cultural Center Commission, which owns the property, a request by Garth Fagan Dance to commence an initial environmental study of the site, estimated to cost $1,000, was reviewed. The environmental study will reveal if the site is free from underground hazards and suitable for development.

From health to hard knocks?

Recent news that ViaHealth Inc. hired a consultant to recommend new uses for the former Genesee Hospital made waves for all the wrong reasons. The Democrat and Chronicle reported that one potential use for the building would be a prison, an adaptable reuse project that doesn't exactly thrill Mary Wells, executive director of the South East Area Coalition. "My initial reaction to the possibility of having a prison in our neighborhood is that no, it's not a good idea."

            So is ViaHealth for real?

            Diane Ewing, vice president of marketing and public relations for the health system, will only say "multiple scenarios have been considered," but nothing has been decided. The trick, she says, will be determining "how the value of that property compares to others in Rochester." "Any option... would have to be economically viable," she says.

Webster plot in question

Webster townspeople will soon have a chance to preserve a little corner of beauty. On March 25, a town referendum is scheduled (hours of voting TBA) on a single ballot question: whether to spend $1 million or so for four-plus acres at the juncture of Irondequoit Bay and Lake Ontario.

            Town commissioner of public works Gary Kleist says the land lies next to the Hojack railroad right-of-way, which now carries a public trail rather than trains. The land now is zoned for "waterfront development," says Kleist, and in fact there's a proposal pending to build a hotel and restaurant there. "We're not talking a high-rise but a condominium-style" two-story structure, he says.

            Local environmental groups have catalogued the bay and lakeshore as "environmentally sensitive areas," but they have been overdeveloped regardless. So the Webster referendum is critical in its own way.

Peace maneuvers

Six buses of Rochesterians (and 200 others traveling separately) joined around 400,000 peace demonstrators in Midtown Manhattan February 15, says Metro Justice organizer Jesse Lenney. This was the second time in a month that hundreds of local people made a long trek to say no to an Iraq war. The first trek was to Washington in January. The New York demo was part of a coordinated worldwide effort that brought out several million people total, with perhaps the largest turnout in London, fueled by Bush buddy Tony Blair's bellicosity.

            But take it from those who went to Manhattan: This one was special. Part of it was braving temperatures in the teens and the brisk East River winds. But then there was the NYPD security apparatus.

            Miriam Lerner, a local sign language interpreter, tells what happened to some demonstrators stuck in pedestrian gridlock, thanks to NYPD barricades placed blocks from the rally site. "Mounted police who had been in the street ordering everyone to move along and get on the sidewalks brought their horses onto the sidewalks and started riding them right into us. I tried to get moving, but there really was nowhere to move --- there was a crush all around me, and the first few people they herded into me pushed by and I was flattened against the wall." She says others nearby were shoved and subjected to arbitrary orders. (A City Newspaper staffer who attended the rally saw similar police offenses.)

            Lerner came away with a good attitude, though. She concludes: "No matter what you do or don't read in the press, please know that there were several hundreds of thousands of very peaceful people in the streets... more in tune with what is needed in the world than anyone."

Colombia comes north

Colombian trade union leaderHector Giraldo came through Rochester recently and made public appearances in Buffalo and other cities, hosted by the Communications Workers of America and the AFL-CIO.

            The snowy roads changed his itinerary a little, but it's doubtful Giraldo would see this as a hardship. That's because Colombia is probably the most dangerous place on earth for labor. A CWA backgrounder says that in 2001, there were 223 union activists killed worldwide; 201 of them were Colombian. That's why the AFL-CIO is bringing people like Giraldo to the US for year-long respites, during which they educate Americans on the ruthlessness of "Plan Colombia."

            The plan, which includes more than $1 billion in military aid, helps the Colombian military and its paramilitary allies do their worst. An Amnesty International report summed up the situation last year: "Systematic and gross abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law persisted. Paramilitary groups acting with the active or tacit support of the security forces were responsible for the vast majority of extrajudicial executions and 'disappearances'... Armed opposition groups [including the leftwing FARC] were responsible for violations of international humanitarian law, including arbitrary or deliberate killings." Giraldo told a national CWA gathering: "We are fighting [the current regime] because it restricts our rights, threatens democracy, increases unemployment, and increases poverty. Because we are fighting it, we are targets of paramilitary violence."

            Giraldo, says Rochester labor advocate Jeff Nieznanski, wants to return to Medellin, Colombia, to work on the issues. There's also the possibility, says Nieznanski, of building some kind of "sister city" relationship between Rochester and Colombian unions.

Land locked in

Not far from the City of Rochester-owned Hemlock-Canadice lakes watershed, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has had another success.

            The Trust, based in Ithaca, recently announced the acquisition of a protective conservation easement on 434 acres of forest and farmland, ponds and wetlands in the town of Springwater. Under the terms of the easement, the property owners, John and Carol Krebs, have donated the development rights to the Trust. According to a news release, the easement will allow farming and timber management to go on, monitored by volunteers from the Trust's Western Lakes Chapter.

            With this transaction, says the news release, the Trust has just under 7,000 acres under its protection in our 12-county region.

Timothy Draper

It's shocking to hear that Timothy M. Draper, founder and artistic director of the Rochester City Ballet, died Monday, February 17, at 49. The report stated that he went into diabetic shock on a flight from London to the United States, and died of cardiac arrest in a hospital in Ireland, where the plane made an emergency landing.

            I knew that Tim was a diabetic; so am I. But I never thought of him as ill or vulnerable; he was incredibly healthy looking. Working seriously at gyms, Tim developed such a trim, powerfully muscular body that I remember kidding him about where all those muscles had come from. Tim looked stronger than he had when he returned to his native Rochester from a career as a ballet dancer and began teaching here. First he got his own school; then, in 1987, he founded Rochester City Ballet.

            It may sound insensitive, but I feel that even more shocking than the tragically untimely death of this fine young man is the disastrous loss to our region's arts and culture. To be tactlessly frank, I must say that though for decades many talented people made worthy efforts to create a significant ballet company in this area, only Tim Draper succeeded in doing so. He developed a ballet company good enough to appear with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in their annual "Nutcracker" performances, and to dance them better than the well-known professional companies the RPO had brought in before.

            Furthermore, year after year, he trained very young dancers to be such exceptionally beautiful, gracious artists onstage that a significant number of his protégés are now performing in New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, and several other fine companies. World-famous teachers and artistic directors of major ballet companies have commented on Draper's extraordinary training abilities. This year's graduate, Sarah Lane, won a position with American Ballet Theatre's studio company and won top prizes in two international ballet competitions.

            What will become of ballet in Rochester without Tim Draper? I have no idea.

--- Herbert M. Simpson

While you were out

For the second time this year, authorities have found unacceptable amounts of shit in a Rochester bakery. But in this case, we're talking about drugs, man, dope --- and lots of it. The feds have linked Carolina Bakery, on North Clinton Avenue, to what they say is an international drug ring trafficking cocaine, heroin, and pot in the Northeast. A search conducted at the bakery on February 13 found about a pound of uncut heroin, 100 small bags of the same, guns, and about $16,000 in cash. Considering the massive amounts of illegal drugs sold and consumed in the area, the bust does little to solve Rochester's drug problem, but it may solve the mystery of why Carolina's powdered donuts and poppy seed bagels were in such high demand.

A contingent of East End business owners has sent a formal complaint to city officials expressing concern that the annual East End Nightlife Festivals have become drunken bacchanals filled with tens of thousands of beer-swilling 20-somethings who pee in the streets and damage property. The complainers would rather the privately run events --- which also feature live bands and food --- become more family-oriented affairs, like the craft and corn-dog extravaganzas in Corn Hill and along Park Avenue. Festival principal Bruce Miles, owner of Richmond's bar, downplayed the complainants' concerns, pointing to the fact that the fests have helped revitalize a previously depressed area of the city. Short of denying permits to close off streets for the festivals, city officials seem at a loss to respond.

Attempts to impregnate Genny C, the 26-year-old African elephant held captive in the Seneca Park Zoo, have failed. Vets will try to artificially inseminate the pachyderm again in June. Our suggestion: Take her down to one of the East End Fests and see if she hits it off with one of her fellow 20-somethings who, perhaps, has had a few too many drafts.

--- Compiled by Chris Busby from news reports, interviews, and copies of Trunk, a pachyderm porn mag.

Correcting ourselves

In last week's cover story ("Porno 101," February, 12, 2003), University of Rochester spokesman Robert Kraus's name was spelled incorrectly. And in last week's "While you were out," it should have been made clear that interim superintendent Manny Rivera proposed a four-day school week for at least one high school, not all of the district's high schools (sorry, kids). As if that wasn't enough, the local bar Elixir was misspelled "Elixer" in last week's Barfly column.

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